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Facing Recent Loss with Compassion

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In the last 2 weeks, three people close to me

have died. Two were clients I had worked with

for a long time. And the other person was my

practice’s office manager of over 11 years,

Ruth Musser, someone I worked with every

week for all those years very closely.

I found out about their deaths within the span

of just a few days and the shock was palpable.

It felt just like being hit hard in the stomach.

I still don’t feel like I can take a full breath of

air into my lungs.

Four Stages

Like many of you, I turn to experts in times

of trouble to get some words of wisdom.

One of the best short pieces about facing loss

and grieving is by Frank Ostaseski, which you can

find by clicking here: The Four Stages of Facing Loss.

Mr. Ostaseski details the experiences contained

within the stages of Facing Loss, Mourning,

Letting Go, and Moving On. He brilliantly

elucidates the difficulties inherent in dealing

with loss: how we  judge ourselves very harshly,

how grief forces us to deal with the truth of

impermanence, how we keep on losing the

person over and over in many ways, and how

when we move on we will still carry the person

with us in some ways.

Coping with Traumatic News

One thing I have learned about myself over

the last 48 years is that I am a slow-responder

to traumatic events, as are many therapists and

people who work in fields caring for others.

We respond to immediate trauma by jumping

in and coping and figuring out who needs what,

managing and dealing with the specific needs

of the traumatic situation.

Rather than being in immediate touch with our

feelings, we “deal” with the trauma.

It is only later, when all the chaos has died down,

and the emergency is over, that we “break down”

ourselves and allow ourselves to feel our feelings

and finally begin to grieve.

And so, I am still quite numb from the shock of

having lost all these individuals who were

important to me in different ways.

It will take many months for me to be able to

process the grief and feelings of loss I know

that I feel, but are buried for the moment.

Compassionate Mourning

As a therapist, I know that being kind and

compassionate toward oneself during times

of grief is incredibly important.

Understanding that you may not be completely

“yourself” for a long time, that feelings of grief

can hit you seemingly from out of the blue on

even “good days,” and that you need to make time

to allow yourself to feel the “pure pain” of grief

is all par for the course of mourning.

I know that letting feelings of grief come and

wash over me and move through me is healing

and will move me forward along the grieving

path, and I do not fear feeling this.

If you are facing or dealing with loss in your

life, remember to be as kind to yourself as you

are to others who are facing losses.

You Are Not Alone

Every human is walking a path of grief,

mourning losses both old and new.

Loving people who are mortal leaves us

vulnerable to the unique pain of grief when

they die, yet this “unique” pain is universal.

You are not alone in feeling even the most

intense pain of mourning and loss, and

there are groups available both online and

in your community if talking with others

about your loss would help you to know

you are not alone, and you will survive.

For Ruth and Others

For Ruth and others dear to me,

I want to dedicate to them one of my

favorite poems:

Death Is Nothing At All

by Canon Henry Scott-Holland


Death is nothing at all

I have only slipped away into the next room

I am I and you are you

Whatever we were to each other

That we are still

Call me by my old familiar name

Speak to me in the easy way you always used

Put no difference into your tone

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed

At the little jokes we always enjoyed together

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me

Let my name be ever the household word

that it always was

Let it be spoken without effort

Without the ghost of a shadow in it

Life means all that it ever meant

It is the same as it ever was

There is absolute unbroken continuity

What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind

Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you for an interval

Somewhere very near

Just around the corner

All is well.


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